Most blue-collar bowhunters don’t suffer from the fat-wallet syndrome. Most can’t afford to fork over hard-earned greenbacks for a lease, an outfitter, or their own slice of whitetail heaven. So what does that leave for most bowhunters? Yep, public land tracts open to anybody and everybody.
In my opinion, the roots of public land deer hunting run deep. Most deer hunters cut their teeth hunting public land deer, and for many, it’s a challenge they still enjoy to this day. For those who turn up their noses at public land spots—who believe they are full of people and lacking game—need to think again. Throughout deer country—from the Rockies to The Big Apple—are throngs of public land hot spots that will rival top private land locations. The trick is finding them.
Yes, it’s true when you work hard to find something great you naturally want to protect it, but don’t think that leaves you with only Google Earth and a game department biologist to help unravel your next public land honey hole. While Google Earth and contacting regional game department biologists are important steps, I’ve gleaned most of my public land haunts through the use of social media.
Facebook has to be my favorite, and here’s what you do. First, sift through your list of friends and single out those who live in the state you’re planning to hunt. Next, visit the pages of those people and read their posts. It won’t take long to realize they’re hunters. Once you recognize what you believe to be a few savvy bowhunters, strike up a conversation with them. Now, I’m not telling you to start off by asking them their favorite place to hunt public land deer in their home state, but rather just start off talking about hunting in general. Keep up the correspondence for at least a week before you start to pry a bit, and when you do start to pry, be prepared to offer something in return. For example, two years back I struck up a conversation with a Nebraska bowhunter. We chatted on and off for a few weeks before I even started hinting about public land deer hunting in his state. When I did, I offered an exchange. His Nebraska public land whitetail information for information about one of my Colorado elk spots. We made the swap. That fall he arrowed a 5-point bull in Colorado and I was able to arrow a respectable 120-inch Nebraska buck.
If you’re not a Facebook junkie, there are other social media routes that can lead you to your next public land spot. Many times I’ve simply started a thread on a respectable bowhunting chat room like Bowsite, Archery Talk, or Bowhunting Chat at Bowhunting Net. Yes, expect to get some less-than-tasteful responses, but also don’t be surprised to have someone step forward and offer helpful information. This holds especially true when you’re seeking information about an area that offers a strict limited draw. Guys and gals who have drawn the tag know they won’t draw it again for many years, if ever, and want to help others have a great experience. If someone steps forward and wants to help, send them a private message and continue the conversation via email or over the phone. Several years back I exchanged information with a man from Kansas. I actually responded to a thread he posted asking about Colorado pronghorn hunting. Today, he comes to Colorado to hunt pronghorn and I head to Kansas to hunt whitetail deer. And best of all, we’ve built a very good friendship over the years.
Social networking is a plug—a channel that if used correctly can help lead you to your next public land deer hunting adventure.